A Travellerspoint blog


Tikal - Lost in the Guatemalan Jungle

Our 600th blog post

sunny 30 °C

It is perhaps fitting that in this National Geographic planet our six hundredth blog entry should come from one of the greatest man-made wonders of the world...
These are the ruins of the once great Mayan city of Tikal that were swallowed by the dense tropical jungles of Guatemala over a thousand years ago and only resurfaced when they were uncovered in the 1840's...
Tikal city had some 3,000 buildings housing up to 90,000 inhabitants at one time, but the whole place was abandoned in the 10th century. Only a few of the buildings have been properly excavated from beneath a thousand years of tropical growth. Most are still hidden under massive tree covered mounds and will never see the light of day. Only a couple of the tallest buildings poke their heads above the canopy when viewed from the top of the 230 foot high Temple of the Serpent.
The Temple of the Serpent in Tikal was the tallest building in all of the Americas until Christopher and his amigos arrived in 1492 and Spanish colonialism began. The temple may have shrunk a bit with age, (haven't we all), but it is still quite a climb on a hot sunny day.
Tikal was the capital of one of the most powerful kingdoms of the ancient Maya and some of the buildings are nearly two thousand five hundred years old. As far as important archaeological sites go, Tikal stands shoulder to shoulder with the likes of Machu Picchu, Chichén Itzá and the Great Pyramids of Giza . The temples in the central plaza are truly awesome.
The ruins are set in the centre of a National Park that is home to a wide variety of animals including jaguars. We didn't spot one of the big cats but we found ourselves surrounded by an ecstatic group of birdwatchers who had spotted this very rare bird...
They gave it a name – but with our minds exploding with historical facts we forgot it. Maybe you can help!

Visiting Tikal is neither an easy, nor inexpensive, experience. Some people take a ten hour bus trip from Guatemala city, but we flew into the the tiny community of Flores that sits on an island in Peten-itze Lake in the central highlands and took more than an hour's car ride to the site from there. The picturesque little town of tin-roofed houses and restaurants thrives on the fact that it is the only sizeable place within striking distance of the ruins....
This is the pretty whitewashed church that sits on a hill in the centre of the island...
When we look out of our hotel's window and watch the sun rising over languid Lake Peten-itze we reflect on the past eleven years of our worldly travels and are forced to question the sanity of humanity...
The world is a beautiful place filled with kind and loving peoples who, for the most part, want only a reasonable share of life's riches. Here in this remote part of Central America the people are friendly and seem happy to see us. With such beauty it is difficult to believe that the Guatemalan economy is fueled by drug dealers, people smugglers and rampant corruption. We are only here for a few days but from what we have seen, Guatemala and the Guatemalan people deserve better. There is much to see here and we will return.

Posted by Hawkson 16:52 Archived in Guatemala Comments (3)

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